TOM OSBORNE: OPTIONS FOR A POLITICAL ORPHAN

When the St.
John’s South MHA defected from the Tories, he stated that the
people in his riding would help him decide where he will be seated on a more
permanent basis.  I happen to live in Mr.
Osborne’s riding; I want to take him up on his offer, now.

Mr. Osborne
is a lifelong Tory; he has won five elections under the P.C. banner.  Upon defection, he said his problem did not
arise from any single issue except for the Tory leadership, though some backbench
MHAs and Cabinet Ministers may now be added to his list, given their visceral
response to his move.  



Cartoon Credit: John Meaney, Rant and Roar

When Jim
Hodder, an MHA for Stephenville and former Premier, Tom Rideout deserted the
Liberal Party in the mid-1980s, they did do so, not in consequence of the then
Liberal Leader, but, ostensibly at least, on account of a policy that favoured
the Federal Liberals on oil and gas issues, in contrast to the NL centered position
aggressively (and, in hindsight, successfully) advanced by the Peckford Tories.

In every
interview, the St. John’s South MHA was consistent: the problem was Dunderdale.
 This might suggest Osborne may wish to
go back ‘home’.  He will have to wait until
Dunderdale self-destructs; though, by then, the P.C. Party may be a poisoned
chalice if Muskrat Falls is sanctioned.

For this
reason, the possibility of Osborne re-joining the P.C.s, may well be a Hobson’s
choice (no choice at all).  But, we’ll call
it option #1.


Option #2,
he can join the Liberal Party.  The fit
makes sense, ideologically; the Liberals and the Tories are just two cans of
peas. The real difference between them tends to be leadership, so increasingly the
contrast is one of history, not philosophy; otherwise, each party merely
constitutes a different brand.  Problem
is, the Liberal brand power is at an all-time low and is stuck.

Tom
Osborne’s riding magnifies the difficulty. In the last general election Osborne
took 57.9% of the popular vote compared with 38.9% for the NDP and an
insignificant 3.2% for the Liberal Party. 
If you said, end the analysis there, who could argue. But, alas, this
item is about the present and the future.

Liberal
Leader, Dwight Ball, is a gentleman and, I believe, trustworthy; he wants to be
Leader, except he doesn’t possess, what Brian Mulroney called the ‘je ne sais
quoi’ winners need. Worse, he appears indecisive and has not utilized his time
as Interim Leader, to define himself and his Party. 

Ball appears
spooked by Dean MacDonald, Danny Williams’ buddy, who is said to be positioning
himself for a run at the Liberal leadership by leading a Liberal Party policy
tour.  This is the same Dean MacDonald
who states that he is steadfastly in favour of Muskrat Falls; he offers no
caveats, not even a ceiling on construction estimates.  His stint as Liberal policy wonk and his
mission to revitalize the Liberal Party says as much about Dwight Ball as it
does Dino MacDonald.

Think about
it.  The Muskrat Falls project, as its
wheels fall off with cost overruns and other issues, is almost certain to
destroy the Tory party for an entire generation.  A strong Liberal Leader, even an interim one,
would ask someone of Mr. MacDonald’s ilk to take a hike for fear the stench of
Musk-rat would stick to the Liberal Party, too.

It’s not as
if Dean MacDonald has been doing such a great job, either.  Asked by a reporter to explain the low turn-out
at local policy meetings, he offered, that it was a low key initiative.

The Libs
have six seats; the party has been moribund, comatose (take your pick) in
recent opinion polls.  It is going
nowhere, the NDP is eating its lunch and Ball is content with listening to a
lame excuse from the guy who wants his job, who wants to be Premier!  Ball should have fired him weeks ago!

Of course,
this situation speaks to leadership. If Ball expects to attract Osborne, he has
to take charge, demonstrate that he is on a mission.  He has quite a distance to go.    

This is Option
#2 for Tom Osborne? The phrase ‘political orphan’ suddenly seems relevant.

Option #3,
join the NDP.  Anyone who ignores the
rise of the NDP in this Province is oblivious to, what I believe, is a paradigm
shift in partisan preferences. The trend is still young; an uncertain Liberal
Party and an inability by Premier Dunderdale to connect with the public will
give the NDP greater impetus. 

The younger
demographic is less fearful of an NDP ideology that favors left of center
policies, more social spending and government engagement in the economy.

Party Leader
Lorraine Michael is intelligent and a capable communicator.  Though the Party found it difficult, at
first, to steer around support by Jack Harris and the Federal NDP on Muskrat
Falls, she is beginning to see that the issue is a poison pill that will bring
down the Tories.  In addition, the Tories
have made it believable that the NDP could never be as reckless with the
Province’s finances as they have been. 

Still, Ms.
Michael has been more cautious than necessary. 
She has held back on a host of key issues and she needs to take greater
ownership of opposition to the Muskrat Falls project.  Michael also needs to articulate her Party’s
plan for securing a meaningful debate in the House of Assembly.

The irony is
that, if Muskrat is sanctioned, the NDP may be the Party that will have to trim
public services and a plethora of social programs to pay for the project.   

Can Tom
Osborne find a home within the NDP?   If the Tories don’t make some tough decisions
soon to shake Dunderdale and the Liberals don’t start showing some spine, you
might just see how quickly a red tory can suddenly turn orange.

One final
point: After MHA Yvonne Jones was elected an Independent Member in 1996, she
took her time; only joining the Liberal Party a few months prior to the 1999
Campaign.

My
suggestion to Mr. Osborne: no hurry.  Enjoy
the view from the Opposition side of the House of Assembly.  For the next two years, you are going to
witness some fundamental changes both inside and outside the House; (for
starters, my bet is Dean MacDonald will return to obscurity as soon as Muskrat
Falls is sanctioned).  Most importantly, Osborne
will have an opportunity to observe which Party is most deserving of his seat.
Indeed, if Osborne turns out to be on the wrong side of that decision his value
to either opposition party maybe doubtful.

You may have
thought there was an option #4.  If
Osborne understands anything about politics, he knows that independent candidates
have a poor track record at election time. Yvonne Jones was one of the
exceptions.

While Tom
Osborne is about to understand the importance of patience, he must be aware
that his speech is no longer restricted by caucus discipline.  He will be expected to share his opinions and
to influence public debate. 

It will be
interesting to see which party most effectively engages him in their strategy
to elevate the art and practice of opposition to a whole new level.

Des Sullivan
Des Sullivan
St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada Uncle Gnarley is hosted by Des Sullivan, of St. John's. He is a businessman engaged over three decades in real estate management and development companies and in retail. He is currently a Director of Dorset Investments Limited and Donovan Holdings Limited. During his early career he served as Executive Assistant to Premier's Frank D. Moores (1975-1979) and Brian Peckford (1979-1985). He also served as a Part-Time Board Member on the Canada-Newfoundland Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB). Uncle Gnarley appears on the masthead representing serious and unambiguous positions on NL politics and public policy. Uncle Gnarley is a fiscal conservative possessing distinctly liberal values and a non-partisan persusasion. Those values and opinions underlie this writer's views on NL's politics, economy and society. Uncle Gnarley publishes Monday mornings and more often when events warrant.

THE PROOF MUSKRAT FALLS IS NOVA SCOTIA’S PROJECT

The substance of Hydro’s mission is to satisfy the contracts with Emera to get large amounts of power flowing into Nova Scotia for the betterment of that province and its ratepayers.  The Island could easily live without the Muskrat Fals project and in fact, other than for the onerous Emera contracts, NL ratepayers would be best off if it was abandoned and left to rust.

FIRST YEAR OF OFFICIAL ENERGY DELIVERY NOT QUITE WHAT EMERA BARGAINED FOR

PlanetNL52: Happy Anniversary Emera on 1 Year of Official Energy Delivery Not Quite What Emera Bargained For Despite all the bad news related to Labrador Island...

GROUP SEEKS PUBLIC SUPPORT FOR CABOT MARTIN RESEARCH AWARD

Cabot Martin’s sudden passing, in September, has stirred his friends, colleagues, and others familiar with his work, to honor him and encourage continued work in applied research and public policy development.

4 COMMENTS

  1. u have little knowledge of politcs in newfoundland apparently; yvonne jones ran for the liberal nomination in cartwright/lanse au clair district in 1996; she then ran as independent and beat liberal danny dummersque; totally pissing off brian tobin and entire provincal liberal executive to no end; who then promptly brought in the yvonne rule/agreement for future liberal district nominations were if u lost nomination you would agree to not run in district as independent liberal like she claimed; so in 1999 she ran again for district liberal nomination and this time beat danny dummersque; after winning in 1996 prov.election; brian tobin made it clear to her and all who wanted to run as liberals that they would not be joining liberal party as mha unless they won nomintation election as LIBERAL; mrs. jones never never never took her time to join liberal party as you wrongly claim; she was die hard big time red liberal in big time LIBERAL district; who couldn't and still does not stand danny dummersque guts; there u go uncle gnarley; a history lesson for you–a liberal re-writer of history apparently?

  2. Uncle Gnarley; can u name the other person; who ran for the liberal nomination in Eagle River; as district was known then; and lost to danny dummersque by just 13 votes;in 1996 same time yvonne jones ran for liberal dist. nomination;
    he was fired from his job by Liberals as eco.dev. officer;
    i will give u four days to find out;answer

  3. the answer to your question is the late Lawerence O'Brien; who was thrown out of his job because the clyde wells liberals of 1989 didnt like his politics; in liberal nomination for Caster River; as district was known then; Mr. O'Brien finished second place and yvonne jones came in last; she then went on and in 1996 election as independent and beat danny dummersque who's been running ever since in any district he can for liberals to get his second term and the big money pension that comes with it; keep trying danny dummersque; just dont run in stjohns district